Scott Kazmir on track to return next week, but will his raw stuff come back?

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Scott Kazmir admitted to being “very surprised” by the Angels’ decision to place him on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Instead of beginning the season in the rotation Kazmir threw 77 pitches in a minor-league game and reported afterward that he felt “real good.”
Kazmir is scheduled to start another minor-league game Friday and then expects to rejoin the Angels with a start against the Yankees next week. “No doubt in my mind,” Kazmir said. “I felt I was ready but, at the same time, I didn’t get that many innings [during spring training]. This just gives me more time to work on things.”
Hopefully he gets healthy, because I’m very curious to see how Kazmir fares in his first full season with the Angels. His raw stuff appeared to be on the decline while in Tampa Bay, but after the Rays traded Kazmir and the $24 million remaining on his contract to the Angels at midseason he turned things around, flashing increased velocity while posting a 1.73 ERA in six starts.
Kazmir led the league with 239 strikeouts as a 23-year-old in 2007, and while he’s still just 26 no longer seems to have that type of upside. His strikeouts per nine innings have gone from 10.4 to 9.8 to 7.1 in the past three seasons and last year batters made contact on 82 percent of their swings against him after previously never topping 76 percent. Kazmir also averaged a career-low 91.1 miles per hour with his fastball, which is one full mph lower than in 2007.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.